Magazine 29 (EN), Stories (EN)

Leandro Mompié

Volumes in Spaces

By Fredy David Rodríguez

In the interpretative exercise concerning the artistic production of Leandro Mompié, I will affiliate myself to the following statement: “Every work of art is a consequence of another work of art”. And the fact is that, in the realms of contemporaneity, the quotation of close or initiatory referents of the History of Art, becomes a quite generalized, conscious and, above all, legitimizing mechanism.

“Volumes in Space” announces the poetics of a young artist, academically trained as a sculptor and with higher studies in scenic design, two practices that, in his case, far from excluding each other complement each other, resulting in works of enigmatic theatricality and solid visual structuring; works where sculpture has been two-dimensionalized, without neglecting the sense of strength, proportionality and volumetry that characterize the art of forms.

Through the transmutation of sculptural projects to painting, Leandro travels a different path from that of most creators, who, at a certain moment, feel the imperious need to embody the characters that inhabit their canvases and drawings, perhaps not to make them more real (because in fact they are), but more similar, closer, more apprehensible.

Another of the discursive contributions that emanates from his staging is that of paradoxes. In this sense, it seems to me that the artist rehearses a sort of figure-abstraction, marked by the manipulated game of antitheses such as: gravity-levitation; movement-quietness; logic-absurdity; balance-unsteadiness; invoice-carelessness; order-chaos. 

Some symptoms of the above could be seen, for example, in the handling of the titles of the pieces, given the impossibility of establishing coherent relations between the verbal supplements full of irony, sarcasm and irreverence that identify the works and their respective representational attributes. This becomes more palpable in the group of works belonging to the exhibition project The Bald Singer, Leandro’s appropriation of that classic of the Theater of the Absurd written by Eugene Ionesco. 

And when it comes to quoting, the artist invents his own “Blue Stage”, in a clear allusion to that of the prolific master of universal art. But while Picasso emphasized coloring his figures with these despairing hues, Leandro focuses on the large, solid blue backgrounds, which imitate neither the sky nor the sea, but a gravitational space where the figures are cut out in front of unimaginable decorations.

He also confesses his admiration for Richard Serra, an icon of sculpture, whose concepts on material, scale, rhythm and proportion are a must for anyone who intends to dedicate himself to the practice of this ancient art. 

Such experimentations began with the series Monument to the Form, exhibited in the Havana capital and later in the art gallery of the Isle of Youth, his birthplace and recurrent source of inspiration. Then came other series such as Opus and the aforementioned The Bald Singer, also created inside the domes of the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana. 

The Opus series includes works of the nature of The Ecstasy of Odalys, a tribute of love to the artist’s mother. This image, contrary to the mystical pleasure experienced by Saint Teresa, from which the title is appropriated, dialogues around the uneasiness, stress, uncertainty and the heavy burden that she, like the rest of the Cubans “on foot”, we have to deal with on a daily basis.

Of the same lineage is the large-format painting entitled The Rock That Strikes the Statue, an imposing volume inspired by the monumental Soviet sculptural ensemble El Obrero y la Koljosiana (The Worker and the Kolkhozian). In my opinion, the work is the dismantling of the artistic fallacy and the discursive grandiloquence that, at the time, meant the so-called Socialist Realism.

The last of the works to which I will dedicate a few brief considerations is entitled The Bather, and it is the closest exponent of all to the canons of non-figuration. Regardless of its title, the observer is free to associate this shapeless, almost grotesque mass with whatever comes to mind. We are witnessing, then, the discovery of a strange matter, which reminds us at times of a rock, at times of a cloth wrapper, but what matters is the enigma that underlies its interior. The Bather summarizes what someone considered the true essence of abstraction: to deny superficial readings.

With his “Volumes in Space”, Leandro Mompié manages to transcend any vestige of tropical provincialism and disrespect for the craft. He dialogues from the self-referentiality on the collective imaginary, claiming the unmistakable and polemic seal that marks Cuban art. Both the works referenced here and the many others that are part of his authorship, are the result of an endless flow of experimentation and philosophical inquiries, where despite the material shortages, the act of creating is an obsession. With Leandro, something expressed by Cezanne applies: “It is not a matter of painting life, it is a matter of making painting alive”.

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